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Adeus, Kassab

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The conservatively inclined but civic-minded Estado de S. Paulo often does a fine job of cross-checking lists of political promises with lists of practical achievements.

Today’s paper runs a post mortem on the performance of outgoing mayor Gilberto Kassab.

Source: Portal ClippingMP.| Estado de S. Paulo
Translation: C. Brayton

A mere 123 of the 223 objectives listed at the outset of the Kassab administration — 55.1% of the total — were carried out, according to the list of objectives announced in 2009.

The mayor says the city government’s “efficacy rate” is 81%, but this figure includes projects not yet completed. Among the main projects promised but not completed on time was the construction of three hospitals, the creation of more day care vacancies, drainage projects, and 60 km of bus corridors.

As part of his “efficacy rate,” the mayor counts both finished and unfinished projects, but says we will leave the city in better shape and with more resources.


The final report of Agenda 2012, the official planning document announced by Kassab in 2009, shows that only 123 of its 223 commitments — 55.1% of the total — have been met as Kassab’s four years in office come to a close. Nevertheless, the mayor says that the city’s “index of efficacy” stands at 81%. This number includes projects that were initiated but not completed.

This was the first time a São Paulo mayor has published a planning document detailing the goals of the administration.  The publication of such a planning document was ordered by the city council in February 2008 in an amendment to the city’s Organic Law that gives incoming mayors three months to define objectives to be met during their term in office.

Bureaucratic and regulatory problems, as well as difficulties in obtaining environmental licenses account for at least part of Kassab’s performance. Among the principal works not completed on time were hospital construction, an increase in daycare capacity, drainage works and 66 km of bus corridors.

These performance were neverthless cited in order to raise the city’s “efficacy rate.” According to the mayor, this index takes into account the bureaucratic status of the city’s projects — contract complete, property rights established, bidding process executed — to measure how far the city has come to completing the road to its objective.

Yesterday,  Kassab said he is leaving “a better city, with more resources” to mayor-elect  Fernando Haddad (PT), who has until March to define his goals.

Actually, Haddad published a highly detailed plan of government during the election campaign.

My browser thanks the candidate for dialing down the Flash the next time around, by the way.

Whether Haddad will do any better at minimizing bureaucratic friction is the question.

Kassab finishes out his second term with very negative polling numbers: 42% rate his government as bad or the worst. Only 27% rate it as good or best. These figures are the worst for any mayor in history except Celso Pitta (1997-2000), with 74% negatives.

Kassab was Pitta’s secretary of urban planning.

It is odd that the Estado does not touch on the Nova Luz project — urban renewal in a  historic downtown neighborhood abutting present-day Cracolândia — Crack City Sambodia.

On a Personal Note

Our little neighborhood here in the Vila was the focus of some of the parks development that the Kassab government promoted.

Our local praça is now a popular spot, with kids playing, dogs sniffing the Internet of dogs and urban DIY greengrocers importing their household grown compost.

It was also the site of a fatal police shooting in which a local resident was shot eight times during a police stop and search. This happened 25 meters from our front door.



The park is not exactly a world-class urban green space, however. As an architect neighbor and another, an engineer, remark, the materials used for the pedestrian paths — sand and brick dust on either shoulder — will soon wash down into the abutting creek.

The playground equipment is dangerously far from up to specs.

If you ask me, the city’s most typical project is the urban reforestation project the city eventually got around to doing on our next door neighbor’s property: A moribund, fenced in sapling bearing the brand of the city environment secretary.

Remember “Ozymandia”?

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!



In short, long live the Potemkin village.


More Sambodian Mud and Flood: Potemkin Cruise Crosses Mogi das Cruces; What the Vigia Told The News

End of the Line

Stop and hail a singing Venetian oarsman: The Régis Bittencourt near Embu yesterday. Source: Folha de S. Paulo.

It never rains in California,
But girl, let me warn ya
Man, it pours,
Man, it pours …

Neuza — my wife, nicknamed “The News” — returns from the morning dog parade with some keen on-the-scene reporting along with some fascinating gossip from the vigia — the 24-7-365 watchman hired by the residents of the Av. das Corujas to keep an eye on things.

The vigia lives in a little guard shack across the creek from the park, and apparently collects rent from carroceiros — families of homeless trash pickers, with their little horse- or man-drawn carts, who live from recycling — who camp there. Among other things.

First of all, part of the Prefeitura’s million-R$ improvement of our park — adding walking paths, drainage, and stairs up to the playing field, and planting trees and bamboo groves — as already been wiped out by yesterday’s rains. It does not seem built to last.

Neuza promises to document the estrago photographically when she has time. She is racing around today trying to avoid a R$500 fine on our vehicle inspection, after our Celta was found to be missing a R$10 hose that no one has in stock. (Around deadlines, authorized inspectors suddenly have no more appointments open.)

“I wonder what the city will do about this?” muses The News to the vigia, eyeing the wreckage.

The vigia laughs and says, “You really think the city runs anything around here? If the Comendador doesn’t give the thumbs up, nothing gets done around here.”

Apparently, the reason there is no local bus service at the triple intersection — a natural place for a bus stop, and which really needs a stoplight, by the way — is that the Comendador, some sort of local AAA-league mafioso, had the bus route re-routed to stop in front of his house.

Or so says the vigia, with a wink and a forefinger laid alongside the nose. (I refuse to pay $R3 a month for “security” to the mano on a moto with the bogus paperwork who whistles up and down the street all night, but The News pays him behind my back. She is afraid not to.)

Even more interesting is the video The News mentions over breakfast, and promises to forward via e-mail, posted to You Tube by one of the major nightly news broadcasts, she says.

The News says a prominent engineer — I believe he is the same expert cited in a recent report by Vio O Mundo — affirms to a wide audience that no dredging work has been done on the Tietê River for the past 3 to 4 years.

Journalist Luis Nassif concluded as much recently, in a post titled “The Tietê was not being dredged.”

By this account, which still needs fleshing out, city dredging contracts for the Tietê got tied up in litigation over the competitive bidding process — exactly when is not clear — and the state water and power agency, the DAEE, finally issued a no-bid work order just last week, citing the present emergency.

In the Vio o Mundo piece, Conceição Lemes had claimed that the state found no private-sector takers for competitive bidding on a public-private partnership for ongoing dredging of the Tietê, announced in 2006 — possibly resulting in a nearly three-year stoppage of dredging work.

Who will now win the emergency no-bid contract arguably caused thereby?

Meanwhile, in Grande São Paulo:

Alagamento na Régis, na altura de Embu, interditou a pista sentido São Paulo por cinco horas e provocou lentidão de 20 km

Flooding on the Régis Bittencourt highway, near Embu, shut down São Paulo traffic for five hours and caused 20km of stop-and-go traffic.

I could be mistaken, but I believe Embu is where the major highways entering São Paulo — all of them outsourced, mostly to private Spanish concerns, I think — flow into the Maluf-built traffic complex that includes the Túnel Tribuna de Justiça. I am still learning the geography of this crazy cruciform city.

And meanwhile, in Mogi das Cruces …

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Falha de S. Paulo: Pumps Slump as Watts Get Wet

Photo credit: Estado de S. Paulo

A strategically located tunnel in the Zona Sul (southern district) of S. Paulo is closed by floods for 38 hours thanks to a perfect storm of engineering fubars.

Ever since I started covering enterprise technology, I have developed a taste for massive systems failures of all kinds: stock market trading platform crashes, the Great Northeastern Blackout of 2003 — I personally had to walk back from the Port Authority to Fort Greene, Brooklyn — the credit card system outage on Xmas Eve here in Sambodia, things like that.

I love Six Sigma and all other methodologies– crackpot or otherwise — for staving off the Second Law of Thermodynamics long enough to recover one’s investment.

And here in the land of explosively privatized public utilities, rent-seeking behavior au go-go, and the exploding electrical transformer — it happens every time it rains, and if you are lucky, it happens in a cascading series — a man with a fetish like mine finds a lot of grist for his mill.

The Folha de S. Paulo reports.

Intriguing side note: They found two fish swimming in the tunnel. How did they get there?

A água invadiu o túnel rapidamente por volta das 2h de anteontem e chegou a atingir 2,5 metros de altura. Um carro ficou preso na enchente e foi totalmente encoberto pela água. Ele só pôde ser retirado ontem à tarde (leia ao lado).

The water invaded the tunnel suddenly around 2 a.m. on Thursday and rose to some 2.5m in depth. A car caught in the flood was totally covered by water and could only be extracted yesterday afternoon …

Segundo a prefeitura, o alagamento ocorreu após uma queda de energia, que paralisou as duas bombas que sugam a água que entra no túnel. Uma bomba reserva, que tem gerador próprio e é ligada três minutos após uma pane, não funcionou porque o painel que a aciona foi atingido pela água.

The city government said the flooding took place after an energy failure, which put two pumps, which suck up the water entering the tunnel, out of commission. A backup pump, which has its own generator and was turned on three minutes after the power went out, failed to function because the control panel that operates it got wet.

And now we hear from the most chronically pissed-off, put-upon and ulcer-plagued body of professionals anywhere in the world, perhaps: The Brazilian corps of engineers.

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The Flood, the Mud, the Crud, the Blood: Sambodia

Rio Pinheiros Hoje em Dia

The postcard-friendly Roberto "Beyond Citizen Kane" Marinho, Journalist Bridge over the Pinheiros River. Note the oily sheen. Not pictured for the postcard: the persistent stench of human excrement and acrid petrochemicals.

If you were one of the lucky 500 Paulistas with private helicopters, you had no trouble returning from the beach after the 2010 — the year the monoliths invade Jupiter! — New Year celebration.

If not, you found yourself slogging through an entire Vale do Paraiba — the natural Rio-S. Paulo geographical corridor — flooded up to the wazoo and beyond.

The Estadão has good coverage of events in the entire region, I thought.

The Folha de S. Paulo, on the other hand, leads today with another deluge of hand-wringing, “oh, the humanity!”follow-ups to the deadliest incident so far — a landslide that wiped out a tourist pousada in Angra dos Reis, in Rio de Janeiro.

(Where the nuclear power plants are.)

When foreign tourists are terrified, stranded, and looking to flee the country, it’s bad for business, and therefore news.

When hix from the stix are, it’s just more of Nature’s cruel majesty and sincere expressions of compassionate social Darwinism.

Correspondents to the Blog do Nassif, and others, I imagine, were e-mailing in reports received by cell phone from cities isolated from their normal supply lines by the flooding. Requesting mattresses and food staples. If you are a HMMVV owner, here is your chance to shore up your ailing eco-reputation.

One small town — São Luiz do Paraitinga — is lamenting the destruction of its historic 19th-century cathedral. The Mogi-Bertioga highway closed, as did the Rio-Santos (BR 101) and, as we heard from G1/Globo yesterday, the spectacular Via Anchieta, the main route home from Boiçucanga, Caraguatatuba, Iguape and points beyond both north and south.

Boy are we glad we stayed home and watched subtitled episodes of “House” with the cats and dogs.

Meanwhile, in the Estadão, an interview with a USP geographer who recalls the history of the development of the Tietê and Pinheiros River flood zone.

A tragédia deixou “constrangida e indignada, mas não surpresa” a geógrafa paulistana Odette Carvalho de Lima Seabra. Autora de Os Meandros dos Rios nos Meandros do Poder: O Processo de Valorização dos Rios e das Várzeas do Tietê e do Pinheiros, apresentado como tese de doutorado na USP em 1987, a professora considera corretas as medidas tomadas nos últimos anos para mitigar as enchentes. Mas o sistema já está próximo de seu limite.

The tragedy left S. Paulo geographer Odette Carvalho de Lima Seabra “ashamed and indignant, but not suprised.” Author of The Meanders of the Rivers and the Meanders of Power: The Valorization of the Pinheiros and Tietê Rivers and Shorelines, presented as a USP doctoral thesis in 1987, the professor considers the measures taken in recent years to mitigate floods to have been the correct ones, but says that the system is already nearing its limit.

For várzea = shoreline, I had to look it up in a glossary of cartographic terminology.

A good Google on “+glossary +[subject of interest]” is often helpful.

The professor recounts the history of the development of the várzea areas of the two principal rivers of S. Paulo. As many have commented, the Jardim Pantanal — “Swamp Gardens,” appropriately — area in the eastern zone of our city was never fit for human habitation, but an unscrupulous city councilman encouraged squatting in the area anyway, and then city officials decided to urbanize the area with permanent infrastructure.

A common pattern: Squatting, development, and eventually ejection of the squatters, who lack title to their land — this is happening in the eastern district as we speak — and finally some fancy real estate arbitrage (in New York parlance, “flipping”) by unusually lucky insiders.

The professor recalls how Light, the Canadian power monopoly established in the late 19th century, claimed title to the entire várzea region of both rivers until the 1960s, when the dictatorship-era government “expropriated” the land at prices highly favorable to Light, in order to straighten the river course — both rivers are natural sinusoidal meanderers along a relatively flat planalto — and develop beltways inside the — checking the glossary again — “mean high water line.”

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S. Paulo: Situations Arise Because of the Weather

The Alagão

The press has dubbed it the alagão, rhyming it with the apagão (chronic electricity shortages) of 2000-01 or so. Some wag has framed a neat little political satire here: The sign reads "The New Tietê River: a project of the state government of S. Paulo. Budget: R$1.3 billion."

Situations arise because of the weather
And no kinds of love are better than others
The Velvet Underground

Twitter correspondent @Bringo hears tell that we are flood-ravaged and underwater here in S. Paulo.

Not quite true, although the Zona Leste (eastern district) community of Jardim Pantanal,– Swamp Gardens, appropriately –, pop. 60,000,  is receiving a lot of media attention.

The city plans to start removing residents from the persistently flooded area while registering them for a temporary rent subsidy and subsequent placement in public housing.

(Our old cleaning lady, Val, once commented that she would rather die than move out of her eastern district squatter’s shack into a COHAB.)

Political opponents of Mayor Kassab have been heard to use the phrase “ethnic cleansing.”

Meanwhile, in the Observatório da Imprensa, Luciano Martins Costa looks at the drabbest but most essential topic and the deluge of loaded language used to describe it in recent days.

Os jornais paulistas voltam a se ocupar das fortes chuvas e das enchentes que neste mês já fizeram quase duas dezenas de vítimas fatais. Novamente ocupam as primeiras páginas imagens fortes de cidadãos enfrentando a água imunda que cobre as ruas para tentar chegar ao trabalho ou voltar para suas casas.

The S. Paulo papers are once again focusing on the heavy rains and floods that have already claimed nearly two dozen lives this month. Once again we see the front pages occupied by powerful images of citizens coping with the filthy water that covers their streets, trying to get to work or return home.

Como sempre, os repórteres colhem depoimentos desalentados daqueles que são humilhados, dia sim, dia não, pelas circunstâncias da cidade onde tentam realizar seus sonhos. Como em todas as ocasiões anteriores, a imprensa faz o relato dos transtornos e dos danos, mas não consegue relacionar efeitos com causas.

As always, reporters are out collecting the same old eyewitness statements from residents humiliated by the state of the city where they strive to realize their dreams. As aways, the papers register the damages and havoc, but cannot manage to tie effects to their causes.

A  cobertura dos fatos é apenas parcial, pela impossibilidade de registrar todos os problemas que ocorrem na região metropolitana de uma cidade como São Paulo. Na Zona Leste da cidade, um bairro inteiro com mais de doze mil moradores permanece sob a lama há uma semana.

The reporting of the facts is merely partial due to the impossibility of recording all the problems that occur in the metro area of a city as large as S. Paulo. In the eastern district, an entire neighborhood remains buried under the mud a whole week after the storm.

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Sambodia: Down and Dirty Street Art Wars in the Cidade Limpa?


Batman alley, Vila Madalena: Dozens of works, viciously tag-bombed. Click to zoom.

O melhor da pintura nos muros de São Paulo: A novidade está nas ruas, não na Bienal, mostra Daniel Piza.

The best of São Paulo wall-painting: The new is in the streets, not at the Biennial, Daniel Piza demonstrates.

This is an exaggerated and empty claim.

An online special from the Estadão provides a snapshot of the São Paulo grafitti scene, with an audio commentary that proudly claims a place for the São Paulo graffiti scene alongside those of London, Berlin and New York.

It just so happens that these dionysian eruptions of street art do provide practically the only relief from the visual brutality of this hideous urban conglomeration.

More to the point, however, might have been an investigative piece on the evolution (or devolution) of this scene, especially under the Cidade Limpa (“clean city”) laws against “visual pollution” implemented in the last couple of years.

My guess is that you would find that the scene has contracted, driven into galleries and artistic safari parks with corporate sponsorships like the famous becos (“alleys”) here in the Vila Madalena.

(I remember that the last São Paulo Biennial, the 27th of 2006, actually organized tours of notable street art sites … as well as a video documentary on the pixação culture.)


The famous Vila Mada beco: Viciously tag-bombed in a war on supposed sell-outs. Click to zoom.

This, apparently, is the casus belli for the war between the street artists (grafiteiros) — most of them professionally trained artists working in media and advertising, according to the Estado‘s Piza — and the “taggers” (pixadores) of the ûrban periphery.

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“Brazilian Cities Are The Most Efficient Poverty Factories In The World”


Knowledge wants to be expensive: State of the Cities, €44

ONU: cidades brasileiras têm maior disparidade de renda: Brazilian cities are the most efficient income disparity factories in the world, according to a UN report.

Or so the BBC Brasil reports. The Beeb does not, however, present the numerical evidence for its claim that Brazilian cities present higher indices of inequality than any other cities in the world.

It cites almost no hard numbers from the UN-Habitat report at all, in fact. It seems to have simply lifted factoids straight from the press release, in fact, rather than actually reading the report. From the Latin American fact sheet released by the flacks along with the report.

In Brazil, unemployment rose from 4.3 per cent in 1990 to 12.3 per cent in 2003, and average wages of employees in the formal industrial sector fell by 4.3 per cent in 2003. Unemployment and declining wages in urban areas have polarized income distribution in urban areas. For this and other historical reasons, Brazilian cities today have the greatest disparities in income distribution in the world.

The BBC Brasil will now interview a single source from UN-Habitat who will say exactly the same thing.

As cidades brasileiras são as que apresentam a maior disparidade de distribuição de renda no mundo, segundo o relatório anual do Programa das Nações Unidas para os Assentamentos Humanos (UN-Habitat).

Brazilian cities present the highest income disparity in the world according to the annual report of the UN-Habitat program.

Do you see now while I half-joking refer to São Paulo as “Sambodia”? You, too, can live in a culture-starved Third World desert of the real with a First World cost of living!

O documento Estado Mundial das Cidades 2008/2009, apresentado nesta quarta-feira, cita o desemprego e o declínio dos salários nas áreas urbanas como algumas das razões para esse desempenho.

State of the World’s Cities, 2008-2009, published 23 October, cites unemployment and declining salaries in urban areas as among the factors explaining this finding.

Yes, I know. I read the press release. Tell me something I don’t know.

O relatório utiliza o coeficiente Gini (indicador que mede a concentração de renda de um país e indica desigualdade maior à medida que se aproxima de 1) para medir o nível de igualdade das cidades.

The report uses the GINI coefficient (an indicator that measures the concentration of wealth in a nation, indicating greater income disparity as it approaches 1) to measure the level of equality of the world’s cities.

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